WHERE THERE'S A QUILL....THERE'S A WAY
by Karl Schadow © 2013
(From Radio Recall, February 2013)
In the October 2004 issue of Radio Recall
(www.mwotrc.com) readers were introduced to
a rather obscure but fascinating mystery series
featuring a scientific detective who invented
weapons for America's national defense: Peter
Quill-The Crimson Wizard. This Update will focus
on newly acquired material as the scripts for the
third and finaf season (1940-41) 01 the program
have recently become available to researchers.
Though the second season ended in July
1939, a year elapsed before the program
returned with an audition on July 17, 1940 for a
potential sponsor, the Paul F Belch Company of
Bloomington, Illinois, promoting the WHIZ
Bar. The program's writer Blair Walliser utilized
a script from the second season (Isle of Terror
May 19, 1939) in which Peter Quill neutralizes a
supply of germ bombs stolen by the Red Circle
spy ring. one of Peter Quill's great adversaries
thrououghout the entire program.
The September 22, 1940 issue of the
Chicago Sunday Tribune announced that Peter
Quill would return on Sunday, October 6th to
WGN and the Mutual network with the series
being sponsored. However no sponsor was
identified. In fact. in all of the subsequent program
publicity in the Tribune, the sponsor was never
mentioned. This was in stark contrast to years
previous when the newspaper readily promoted
the candy manufacturer with its Beich Time
musical program on W-G-N in 1929.
During 1940-41 when Belch sponsored Peter
Quill, display ads (see Fig. 1) appeared in its
hometown newspaper The Daily Pantagraph
(currently Pantagraph, www.pantagraph.com).
Publicity in the trade periodicals exclaimed:"WHIZ in Midwest" (Broadcasting, October 1
1940) and "Beich Candy Co. Program Set for 9
Mutual Outlets" (Radio Daily, September 19,
1940). As Beich's distribution was nationwide, it is
unknown why the firm chose to advertise on only nine of the more than 150 Mutual outlets available
at that time.
In the late 1930s, Beich became a client of the
N. W. Ayer & Son, Inc. advertising agency and
through them had sponsored a local high school
quiz program on WBBM (Chicago) in 1939. The
employees at both Beich and the Chicago office
of Ayer primarily responsible for Peter Quill's
success are yet to be identified, though Carl E.
Behr Sr. former VP and general sales &
advertising manager at Beich, and Burke Herrick,
head of Ayer's Chicago radio department were
most likely involved.
Scripts for the 1940-41 escapades of Peter
Quill are now part of the Blair Walliser Papers at
the Wisconsin Historical Society (see link at end
of article). Each episode commenced with
announcer Pierre Andre emoting that the program
was entirely fictional. After a few weeks, the
disclaimer was moved to the end of the program
and the opening started with "The Paul F Belch
Co. presents Peter Quill!' By December,
Beich (and Ayer) had wisely added " ... and the
thousands of candy dealers who serve you ...
This proclamation was followed by the musical
theme and The Quill Call. A brief mention of the.
current episode's title led into the first commercial.
Upon arrival of the appropriate cliffhanger
scene, a middle commercial ensued followed by
ActII and the closing advertisement. The main
product promoted from Beich's candy line was the
WHIZ Bar Premiums were offered right from the
first episode with a oottle of invisible ink the same
as used by Peter Quill; was "yours for only 10
cents in coin or stamps and a WHIZ wrapper."
With the third episode, the ink disappeared
permanently and was replaced by a fountain pen. However, the ante had risen, as it now required
15 cents and a wrapper. With the holiday season
approaching, the pen offer was complemented by
a pocket-knife. Members of the cast in character
were otten enlisted to hype the attractiveness of
the premiums. Even Peter Quill was asked to take
time away from his experiments to promote the
knife which was originally slated to be a jack-knife.
With the arrival of 1941 , new candies and
premiums were exploited. Next up was a set of
three pencils (one each of red, white and blue)
with' God Bless America' inscribed. As this
program was heard In Canada, one wonders why
a corresponding set possibly with 'Oh, Canada'
was not offered? The pencil set and all other
premiums were only avaitable in the US and its
possessions. The WHIZ Bar was accompanied
by Lady Betty, Dipsy Doodle, and Pecan Pete. Of
these, only Pecan Pete achieved significant fame.
Copy reprinted from the January 1, 1941 issue of The Daily Pantagraph is courtesy of the Mclean County(illinois) Museum of History. Used by permission of boththe Museum and the Panlagraph (Lee Enterprises, Inc.)
In the episode of January 19, 1941 , Pierre
Andre sang a WHIZ Bar Jingle:
The following week, he had one for Pecan
Now and then most people like
To do their taste a favor
And lots have found that WHIZ
Is tops with its grand flavor
For a treat
He can't be beat
Watch for him
He's Pecan Pete
Andre then challenged listeners to compose their
own jingle and send it to him personally (c/o
listener's station). He'd pick the best one and the
winner would receive a whole box (24) of Pecan
Pete bars. To the probable dismay of the listeners
and this author, nothing more was heard of this
particular contest. Subsequently however free
boxes of assorted Beich candies were sent to
those who submitted the best entries in the
proverbial twenty-five words or less; why they like
WHIZ or Pecan Pete contest. Twenty-five such
entries were selected each week over the next
Beich promoted the Pecan Pete bars in
newspapers Including that published by the local
university in Bloomington (see Fig. 2) Certainly
Illinois Wesleyan was encouraging healthy eating
habits of its student body, as immediately
adjacent to the Beich ad was one highlighting
Meadow Gold Homogenized MILK (see link to full
page at end of article.)
In the final program's (March 30, 1941) closing
commercial, Pierre Andre bid listeners good-bye
until a later date. It is unknown why Belch
discontinued its sponsorship of Peter Quill.
Although the great wizard did not return to the air,
Beich, through a host of agencies continued its
radio ad'/ertising with spot campaigns during
Wer1d War II and into the late 1940s. In 1948, it
again ventured into network: radio with the WHIZ
Quiz hosted by Johnny Olsen on ABC.
While the commercials were often jovial,
elements of humor were occasionally interjected in the scripts. While investigating a case at the
circus, Roger Dorn tells Gail Carson a 20 year-old
joke about an elephant that after being fed coffee,
swallows the grounds. In her retort, Gail calls him
Fibber McDom which was also a nice tribute to
the Fibber McGee and Molly program. While
pursuing zombies in a later episode, Peter
Quill states to Gail and Roger, "... it appears that
dead men not only tell no tales, but also leave no
Villains were not to be ignored when the evil
cat·man, Magos Maskathai after having
kidnapped Gall and brought her to his pitch-black
domicile remarks " ... you, poor, ordinary, normal
being· unable to see about you in this
magnificent darkness ..." One of the funniest
moments occurred during this exchange between
the Red Circle's Dr Carnos and Captain Balsamo,
a revolutionary who Is seeking arms and money
from the spy organization:
Balsamo: Well ··Senor I must tell you, our
pilots are not so good.
Carnos: You mean the planes crash often?
Balsamo: No Senor··usually only once.
Carnos: (Disgust) Ahhl I wish I had your pilots
In my homeland for just one month. We would
teach them to crash planes.
Balsamo: Senor, you do not understand. They
all know how to crash planes. You should teach
them how not to.
One wonders if Balsamo is not a long-lost cousin of Pancho.
©1941 Illinois Wesleyan University. Reprinted with
permission from the March 18, 1941 issue of Illinois
There was plenty of "blood 'n' thunder" in Peter
Quill's adventures as he and Secret Bureau
Agents Darn and Carson battled the criminals.
There were numerous brawls. People were killed
in bombed buildings, exploding tunnels, in plane
and car crashes. There were countless shootings,
stabbings, and poisonings. Others were forced to
jump out windows, were frozen or subjected to
micro-organisms run amok.
In one of the most gruesome scenes in the
program's history, a normally gentle ape who has
been the recent recipient of a heart transplant
(human), suddenly rips a cat literally to shreds,
and then pets the remnants of the feline. These
events transpire in, of all places, the laboratory of
Peter Quill. In the episode" Ali Roads Lead to
Madness· (March 9, 1941), listeners who were
easily upset were told to turn off their
radios before the program started.
There were incidents of torture as Gail Carson
was to have her hand held in nitric acid and
foot crushed under a power press if she did
not obey her Red Circle captives. In a later
episode, a child befriended by Gail and Roger is
rescued atter being handcuffed and chained. In
one of the more dastardly events, Gail is
subjected to "milady's bath" by being strapped to
a seat in a large tank which is about to be slowly
filled with water This scene also illustrates one of
the ether's supposed taboos, that of sexual
In order to get Gail into the tank, Magos
Maskathai and his savage servant kidnap her
from her apartment as she is attired in only a
negligee. Amusingly, negligee is crossed out in an
earlier script in a similar situation, but somehow
escaped the censor's pencil a second time. She is
rescued from the tank alive by a chivalrous Peter
Quill who, after remarking that she looks
extremefy cold and wet in that negligee, takes off
his coat and wraps it around her.
It would not do the program justice for this
author to attempt an explanation as to the sheer
ingenuity of the sound effects artists. To date, only
Russell Raycraft has been identified as one of the
these innovators. Other than through the use of a
musical sounding board, echo chambers and
filters, all else remains a secret. Director Walliser
had much fun in taunting the press (and amused
listeners) with publicity releases as to the way
sounds were performed of various inventions
Including the directional audio scope, magnetic
sound screen and invisible lightning. Moreover,
there are no clues from the scripts but cues as:
SOUND: California fog still coming down in
SOUND: We hear the whistle very softly,
Remember, you're not calling a taxi.
Is that "wailing into the piano" effect by Marvin
Mueller or in earlier seasons by Hugh Studebaker,
The Quill Call?
We face the same dilemma with the music
performed by the WGN Concert Orchestra under
the baton of Henry Weber. The cues from the
scripts reveal only general terms:
MUSIC: Dramatic and very horrid climax.
Did Peter Quill contribute to the delinquency of
juveniles who listened to the program? Not
according to research of the Chicago Recreation
Committee who found in both delinquent and nondelinquent
groups alike, listing the program in
their top-ten. Moreover, the program was a
favorite of TV's The Twilight Zone writer, Charles
Beaumont as stated in Harold Lee Prosser's tome
"Running from the Hunter" (Wildside Press LLC,
1996). Of special note is that nuclear physicist
and emeritus professor A. M. Kiehn declared that
the program actually encouraged him to pursue a
career in science. (see link at end of article).
Even though scripts of Peter Quill are now
available for research; until audio is located, the
program will remain an uncanny mystery. This
author (email: firstname.lastname@example.org) is
determined that another eight years will not
elapse before this mystery is solved and wishes to
acknowledge those who assisted his current
endeavors: Dr M. A. Killmeier, Bill Kemp, Milan S.
Jackson, Meg Miner and Barry Wintertand.
IWU Argus page:
Professor Kiehn's website:
Blair Walliser Papers: